The man once dubbed “Britain’s greatest-ever fraudster” after stealing an estimated £30m through a complex series of scams is warning UK retailers that they will see a pre-Christmas onslaught by thieves and fraudsters this year.
Tony Sales, who since completing his last prison sentence in 2010 has been advising retailers on how to close theft and fraud loopholes, is predicting that the UK retail sector will be hardest hit in the first half of December as criminals look to have a very merry Christmas.
“The first two weeks of December represent a prime time for fraudsters to strike,” he says, “as they present an ideal mix of over-stretched staff, special promotional deals and increased customer footfall to hide behind. If they want to have a good Christmas they know they need to hit then.”
He believes retailers need to change their mindset if they are going to get ahead in the ongoing battle against the criminals.
“Retailers continue to fail get inside the mind of the fraudsters,” he goes on, “which is hampering them in their attempts to thwart criminal activity. Fraudsters look for the opportunity to exploit rather than the systems that retailers deploy, and this is a mindset that retailers need to get a firm understanding of if they are to start making significant reductions to their losses.
“Festive promotional deals are ripe for exploitation by fraudsters as they’re often fraught with the potential for an easy win, so retailers should be examining this before it’s too late.”
Retail loss through criminality is on the increase generally. Earlier this year, the most detailed report into loss prevention ever conducted within the UK retail sector found that UK retailers suffered losses of £3.4bn due to theft and fraud in 2012, a 10% increase on last year. The Retail Fraud Study, by research company Martec International, conducted detailed interviews with 100 of the UK’s top retailers, including Tesco, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis.
The British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey 2011, published this January, also revealed the rising cost of retail crime. According to that study, taking in the value of goods stolen and the cost of retailers’ anti-crime measures, it rose by 31% to £1.4bn in 2011 as the sector was increasingly targeted by serious, organised criminals.